About Sarah Rubin

Sarah Rubin is the author of "Dreamer Ballerina", the story of Casey Quinn a South Carolina girl who dreams of being a dancer in New York City, and the "Alice Jones Mysteries", about a girl who uses her love of numbers and logical mind to solve some truly tricky mysteries. Sarah grew up in the United States, but now she lives in Hampshire with her husband, two children and an action-cat named Hamish.

The Impossible Clue

The first Alice Jones Mystery is (finally?) out in America.  So if you’ve been waiting for the US edition (with all those pesky extra U’s removed, or if you just want a copy with the awesome Melissa Manwill cover, now is your chance!

TheImpossibleClueHCMath whiz Alice Jones has already cracked a mystery or two. She’s smart and she’s fearless, so who else would her classmates turn to? But when a famous local scientist vanishes from a locked room, Alice and her detective skills graduate to the big leagues.

Dr. Learner had been working on a top-secret invisibility suit that everyone wants. Rumor has it he’s disappeared under suspicious circumstances . . . literally. But is wacky science really behind his vanishing? Or is it something more sinister? Alice won’t stop until she knows the truth . . .

The Impossible Clue is a middle-grade story whose appeal is no mystery, with a protagonist whose charm needs no magnifying glass to detect.

You can order your copy here.

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My Inspiration: The Boyd Theater

 

The second Alice Jones mystery is out in two more weeks! I can hardly believe it. In anticipation, here is another look behind the scenes…

Alice Jones: The Ghost Light is set in an old, run down theater called the Beryl. The Beryl was once the finest theater in Philadelphia, but after a fire in 1927, it fell into ruin, got a reputation for being cursed and sat  derelict for almost a century. It’s an amazingly grand building beneath the years of soot and decay, full of drama and majesty. It’s also completely fake.

There are a lot of reasons I chose to create my own theater instead of using a real one, but the biggest was so that I could have total control of all the exits and entrances and any secret spaces that *might* exist.

But, the (fake) Beryl Theater was inspired by a very real one in the heart of Center City: The Boyd.

My inspiration was twofold. First, The Boyd inspired the look of the Beryl. I love its art deco styling and the immense amount of detail everywhere in the building. I mean, it was a room for watching movies in the dark, but they still  intricately carved and painted the ceiling, and custom designed the carpets. Of course, the paint is peeling and there are chips in the moldings-but you can still see how amazing it was once upon a time.

Stairs to the balcony, a sign for the lounge and detail etched into the lobby door. Photos courtesy of Friends of the Boyd, Inc.

 

Colored glass detail, fountain-themed plaster molding and the lobby stairway niche. Photos courtesy of Friends of the Boyd, Inc.

But beyond just looks, I was inspired by the story of The Boyd and the people struggling to save it from demolition.

Starting in 2002, The Friends of the Boyd worked tirelessly to keep the theater going and restore the building to its former glory. I can remember seeing one Friends of the Boyd newsletter at my parents house and being mesmerized by the photos of the theater.

The exterior of the Boyd today.

The graffiti inspired a brand new character!

Sadly, the auditorium wing of the Boyd was demolished in 2015. The facade and Grand Lobby, however, are still standing and The Friends of the Boyd are working to rehome many of the period features saved from inside the building.

The Beryl, I’m pleased to say, gets a happier ending.

 

 

My Inspiration: The Patiala Necklace

Happy December. I can’t believe 2016 is almost over already!

Alice Jones: The Ghost Light is coming out next month (5 January!) and I thought it might be fun to ‘lift the curtain’ and share some of the things that inspired me while I was writing this mystery.

In her second case, Alice investigates a possible haunting at an old theater. While looking into the theater’s history, Alice discovers a fabulous diamond necklace went missing the same night a fire nearly destroyed the building. The necklace was called The Midnight Star, and it was never found.

I looked at a lot of pictures of famous necklaces while I was plotting The Ghost Light, but the second I saw The Patiala Necklace, I knew I’d found ‘the one’.

The NecklaceThe Patiala Necklace was designed by Cartier for Maharajah Bhupinder Singh in 1928. It took three years and 2930 diamonds to create (962.25 carats of diamond!). The square yellow (tobacco colored for you fancy people) diamond pendant is the De Beers diamond and is the seventh largest diamond in the world.

It is a stunningly beautiful bib of jewels and I was entranced the moment I saw it. But, as I did more research, I discovered there was another reason to be inspired.

 

Like The Midnight Star in Alice Jones: The Ghost Light,  The Patiala Necklace mysteriously disappeared from the royal family’s treasury in 1948. No one knows who took the necklace (or if the family sold it off on the quiet), but it resurfaced in a second-hand jewelers in London in 1998. All of the large gems had been removed from their settings. Cartier bought the necklace and spent the next two years restoring it to its former glory.

Like Alice, I spend a lot of time wondering just where the Patiala Necklace WAS for all that time. And how did it come to be in that second hand jewelers? It makes me wonder about all the other missing treasures out in the world: Where are they hiding right now? And who will find them? Maybe, it will be me.

 

It WAS a Mystery-The Cheltenham Literary Festival

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This past October I got to take part in the Cheltenham Literary Festival! I did an event called It’s a Mystery with the very talented Katherine Woodfine (author of The Clockwork Sparrow and The Jewelled Moth). It was my first literary festival, so everything was very new and exciting. I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I should have, but here are a few:

Getting ready for the big day with book themed outfit and nails. (I also reviewed all of my notes and outlines for Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue and Alice Jones: The Ghost Light-but that would be a very boring photo.)

Here’s my official ‘Presenter Wristband’–

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–so the organizers knew I was meant to be in the writers tent and hadn’t sneaked in to gawp at the real celebrities or eat the free food. Cheltenham Festivals did an amazing job feeding us, by the way, I felt very fancy!

The event itself was in The Little Big Top, an amazing venue!

 

And here we are onstage, ready to talk all about mysteries!

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Alex O’Connell introducing Katherine Woodfine and me.

The event itself was the best part! Our moderator, Alex O’Connell of The Times, asked really interesting questions (How we came up with our characters, the differences between American and British mysteries, what makes a good baddie and how we plot our crimes). Having a seasoned speaker like Katherine up there helped me feel a lot less nervous. BUT, the thing that made the event SO FANTASTIC was the ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS audience!

They had great ideas on what makes a good detective (bravery, smarts, attention to detail, ready for anything) and wonderful questions at the end of the session-both about mysteries and about being a writer. I think we definitely had some future mystery authors in the tent!

On a more personal note, it was a lot of fun to share what I do with my family. I think being a writer can seem very ambiguous, and very boring to people living with an author. After all, when my kids see me working all they see is me frowning at a computer screen, fingers pecking away at the keys. After seeing me onstage, my son has a much better idea of what I do, and he thinks it’s pretty cool.

‘Mummy, maybe I’ll be a writer like you when I grow up.’

And that’s probably the best bit of all.

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‘Mummy, you’re actually kind of cool.’ (I’m enjoying it while it lasts)

A Day in Philadelphia

This summer I took a trip to America to visit my family on the other side of the Atlantic. We started in Maine and ended in New Jersey, but I had a day to do a whirlwind tour of Philadelphia, the home of Alice Jones.

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A view of the skyline as we drive in, you can just see William Penn’s statue on top of City Hall.

When I was growing up, I spent most of my summers in Philadelphia with my dad and three of my four siblings. When I was very young (and still an only child), we lived on South Street right in the center of the city, surrounded by funky shops and artists. We lived down the road from Isaiah Zagar, an amazing muralist who decorated the walls of the city with found object mosaics. If you are ever there, visit The Philadelphia Magic Garden! It’s amazing.

Magic Garden by Kevin Burkett

A fork in the road at the Magic Garden. Someday I’ll set something here!

Later, when my siblings arrived, we moved out of the city. But we’d still visit all the time. One of my favorite places to go was The Franklin Institute an enormous science museum full of fabulous interactive exhibits. Alice, being a math and science fan, shares my love of The Franklin. 

Check out Alice hanging out on the steps outside.  And me trying to share a copy of The Impossible Clue with Ben Franklin. He wasn’t biting…

 

I also stopped by the Philadelphia Free Library to see the steps where Alice and Kevin make their first big breakthrough in the case of the invisible scientist. One thing this visit REALLY reminded me, was just how HOT Philly can be in the summer. I remembered the heat on an intellectual level, but I’d forgotten what it really felt like – the intensity and how sticky it makes you. Check out my frazzled hair as I pose!

 

A few more highlights:

One of the city’s many beautiful murals. A touch of history (note the flag). And, of course, a food cart like the one in The Impossible Clue where Alice buys soft pretzels and spots the mysterious silver Mercedes.

Philadelphia is a great city and it deserved more than just a day, but it was fun to go on even a short trip down memory lane with Alice. If you live in Philly or have visited, I’d love to see your photos and hear about your favorite places in the city! 

It’s A Mystery!

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I’m very excited to be speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival next month. I’m doing a panel with Katherine Woodfine all about mysteries and how we write them. Katherine is the author of the fabulous Clockwork Sparrow and Jewelled Moth Mysteries as well as host of Down The Rabbit Hole, a radio show all about kids books.  Our moderator is Alex O’Connell, The Times’ Arts editor. I am feeling very fancy.

This will be my first festival appearance and I’m equal parts nervous and thrilled. I’ve been having a lot of fun, though, going through all of the notes I made before writing The Impossible Clue and The Ghost Light (the next Alice Jones mystery) and  trying to figure out what the secret to writing a gripping mystery really is. If I figure it out, I promise to share.

It’s a Mystery will be on 8 October at 5pm in the Little Big Top. If you’re interested in coming to see me, you can find out more and book tickets here.

You can find out what other great events are going on at the festival here.

Girls in STEM

Since Alice Jones:The Impossible Clue came out, it’s been in two lists celebrating Girls in STEM (here and here). I had to look up what this meant.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, fields that have traditionally/stereotypically been labeled as ‘for boys’.

Why didn’t I know this? Well, probably because I went to a school with tons of super smart girls (and boys too) and we all took Calculus and Physics together along with AP English and History. I don’t remember ever being discouraged because I was female, but I had this core of strong, smart supergirl friends all around me.
For girls who don’t have that circle of support, I’m glad Alice can be there to show them that loving math can absolutely be a girl thing!